The Vancouver Canucks are a mess and you already know that.
Now as I type this, I feel like I’ve done this article many times before, particularly last season. But alas, we are here once again. You may be thinking I am just rehashing old articles but the Canucks are rehashing the same team and storylines every year. It’s Groundhog Day, no Groundhog Year.
This time around Jim Benning isn’t around to blame. However, his presence still haunts the Canucks.
I don’t want to go into the eight years of Canucks history this time around. Instead, we’ll talk about the state of the franchise and how it is affecting the fandom as well as the current regime and the role they play. Oh yeah, we’ll definitely talk about you-know-who here.
So the Canucks remain winless on the season with an 0-4-2 record. You couldn’t ask for a worse start and this is already looking as bad as last season’s start, which was really bad.
The home opener is a game that is supposed to bring people hope and fun. But instead, anger, frustration and despair are what the fans at Rogers Arena and everywhere have felt on Saturday night. The Canucks lost 5-1 in a game which saw a large chorus of boos and jerseys and a hat being thrown on the ice.
Sweet Caroline is a Boston song anyway and it’s overrated.
Some fans took extreme measures to voice their frustrations with the Canucks.
So that’s where we are at and it is quite sad.
Now some of you say it is wrong to throw a jersey on the ice and burn one. I agree, jerseys are expensive. But these people (likely) paid for them and since they own them, they can do whatever they want with them. Now I am not advocating or condoning jersey burning, it is not what I would do. I would sell them or give them to charity.
Lots of things have gone wrong six games in. The team was blowing leads, Thatcher Demko hasn’t been bad but hasn’t played to last year’s level and JT Miller is getting a lot of heat in this market.
Let’s talk about Miller.
He has not been good, plain and simple. We all know he’s not a good defensive player and frankly, he never was. Now last season he kind of got a pass because he put up 99 points. This season, his offence has been lacking and his defensive game is a huge issue. It is lack Miller is lagging when he is in his own zone.
Now Miller isn’t too worried about his defensive play but a lot of people are. He made even more headlines on Saturday as he got into an apparent argument with Luke Schenn.
Miller refused to talk about it after the game. Alright then, keep your secrets.
Well, there are a lot of issues on the ice. The defence is one. Maybe management should have fixed the defence this past summer. Yeah, they tried but there is no Stanley Cup for “trying.”
This season was supposed to be different with a new regime and an entire season of Bruce Boudreau behind the bench. But this season has been a disaster just six games in.
Since 2014, the Canucks needed to rebuild but didn’t. This franchise is proof that you cannot do things “on the fly.” Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford believes rebuilding isn’t necessary.
For starters, rebuilds shouldn’t take eight-plus years. If the Canucks did commit to a rebuild in 2014, they most likely would have their contention window open by now. Would fans be open to a rebuild right now? Absolutely. It would suck to see so many likable players leave but that is what happens in rebuilds.
Canucks captain Bo Horvat spoke about his frustrations.
“My jersey got thrown on the ice last year and I’ll never forget that for as long as I play,” said Horvat per Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre. “It’s something that hits home, and when you see it again happening this year, it definitely sucks. But I understand their frustration, we haven’t really given them much to cheer about. It’s been a lot of years in the rebuild stage and. . . at this point in the season, it just feels like it’s never going to happen like we’re never going to win again.”
Now that last sentence or two really makes you think. Horvat has been here since the beginning of the “rebuild on the fly” era. It is hard not to see his frustration. Horvat is in his ninth season and has only seen playoff hockey twice. The first was in 2015 during his rookie season and then in 2020 in the bubble. If I had my jersey thrown on the ice, it would keep me up at night for a long time.
With the Canucks bad start to the season, there is no Benning to blame this time around. Some fans blame Rutherford and general manager Patrik Allvin for not doing more this offseason. To be fair, it was a disappointing offseason which saw them bringing back the same blue line and no trades.
The players of course have the right to face heat and many aren’t doing well right now. However, there is one man who fans blame the most and that is owner Francesco Aquilini.
Aquilini oversaw the Benning years and for a long time, he has been reportedly been meddling with team operations.
Trevor Linden was reportedly fired because he wanted the team to rebuild and was pushed out. Aquilini said they “amicably” parted ways with Linden. So it looks like Aquilini is the big boss at Rogers Arena and will do anything for some playoff revenue. He’s a billionaire and what do billionaires want? More money.
Shortcuts have been taken for the Canucks to make the playoffs. Well, the shortcuts Aquilini has led them on have been dead ends. Years of shortcuts have made a playoff bubble team that is capped out and a shallow prospect pool. If things don’t change, the primes of Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko will be wasted.
If the Canucks were able to do a rebuild starting today, those are players you keep. You could also add Vasily Podkolzin to that list and maybe even Nils Höglander. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tucker Poolman also stay because their contracts make them tough to trade.
But let’s face it, the Canucks will not rebuild. Instead, they are stuck in this long cycle of mediocrity for the next decade. Aquilini is the scapegoat and always has been. His constant meddling has put this team in a very tough spot.
Ed Willes of The Province wrote that the Aquilini family was “as qualified to run a hockey team as they are to perform open-heart surgery” back in 2008 after the firing of Dave Nonis. 14 years later, the Canucks are a tire fire and are closer to drafting Connor Bedard than winning a Stanley Cup.
Aquilini rarely speaks to the media and it looks like he doesn’t want to face the music. Instead, he blocks fans on Twitter. You might be one of those that have been blocked.
Then there is the off-ice stuff with Aquilini. First, there are poor working conditions at a blueberry farm owned by the Aquilini family and Francesco is facing child abuse allegations by his own children.
But on the ice, Aquilini has overseen and made a losing culture. Fans have every right to voice their displeasure as #SellTheTeam and #AquiliniOut are common replies under Tweets from the Canucks official Twitter account.
This team is forever trapped in Aquilini’s iron first unless he sells the team. Perhaps that is the best thing that could happen to the Canucks.
Instead of images of a winning hockey team with an arena full of fans cheering, we get images of jerseys on the ice and boos from the stands of Rogers Arena. That is what the franchise has become under Aquilini: an absolute shambles of a hockey team that will sadly go nowhere.